Former Croatian Serb Leader Indicted

Goran Hadzic, onetime warehouseman who became head of a rebel Serb territory, charged with war crimes.

Former Croatian Serb Leader Indicted

Goran Hadzic, onetime warehouseman who became head of a rebel Serb territory, charged with war crimes.

Wednesday, 9 November, 2005

The tribunal this week unsealed an indictment charging Goran Hadzic, the former president of the breakaway Serbian autonomous republic in Croatia, with 14 counts of violations of the laws or customs of war.

The 14-count indictment against Hadzic announced on July 16 was first revealed to the government of Serbia and Montenegro, where Hadzic is assumed to be residing. The country’s foreign minister Vuk Draskovic said his ministry had received the indictment on July 13, but had been asked by the tribunal to keep it secret for 72 hours.

Hadzic, 45, worked as a warehouseman before the conflict in Croatia broke out in 1991. As Serb forces took control of swathes of land in Croatia with the backing of the Belgrade government, Hadzic rose through the ranks to become president of the self-declared Serbian Autonomous District of Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Srem. Later, he became president of the so-called Republic of Serbian Krajina.

The indictment covers the period until the end of his presidency in December 1993. Nearly two years later, Croatian forces overran the region and the rebel Serb entity was dissolved.

Hadzic is alleged to have been a member of a joint criminal enterprise involving such figures as the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic; Milan Martic, another former Croatian Serb leader; Serbian chief of state security Jovica Stanisic; special units commander Franko Simatovic; the ultra-right politician Vojislav Seselj; the late paramilitary leader Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic and others.

The purpose of this joint criminal enterprise, prosecutors assert, “was the forcible removal of a majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from approximately one-third of the territory of the Republic of Croatia…in order to make them part of a new Serb-dominated state”.

Specifically, the indictment accuses Hadzic of involvement in persecutions, exterminations, murders, imprisonments, torture, inhumane acts, cruel treatment, deportations, forcible transfers, wanton destruction and plunder of public or private property in Dalj, Erdut, Klisa, Lovas, Granovac and Vukovar.

One particularly gruesome episode included in the indictment alleges that the units commanded by Hadzic - together with troops under Belgrade's control, and one other volunteer unit - forced 50 Croat civilians, who had been detained for forced labour in the village of Lovas, to march into a minefield laid on the outskirts of the village. Twenty-two people were killed either by the exploding mines or by gunfire.

This is not the first time Hadzic has been implicated in crimes by the tribunal. He was named as a co-perpetrator in the indictment against Milosevic issued in 2002.

It remains to be seen how Serbia, which has come under increasing pressure to arrest war crimes suspects within its borders, will follow through on this indictment.

The vast majority of Hague fugitives are believed to reside in Serbia and Montenegro or spend some time there.

Rachel S. Taylor is an IWPR editor in The Hague.

Serbia, Croatia
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